The Carolina Hurricanes say they will match the offer sheet tendered to restricted free agent Sebastian Aho by the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal signed the centre a front-loaded, bonus-heavy contract worth US$42.27 million over five years on Monday as NHL free agency opened.
Carolina, which had a week to match the deal, did not say when it plans to actually put pen to paper.
That could potentially put Montreal in a bind as it looks to woo other free agents.
If the Hurricanes had declined to match the offer sheet given to the 21-year-old Aho, the Canadiens would have had to surrender first-, second- and third-round draft picks as compensation.
The deal runs carries an average annual value of $8.454 million and will run through the 2023-24 season, at which time Aho will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
Under terms of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, the Hurricanes won’t be allowed to trade Aho for 12 months from the date they match the contract.
“This was an easy decision,” Carolina president and general manager Don Waddell said in a statement.
“Sebastian is one of the best players in the league and the centrepiece of what we’re building here. We’ve spoken to him throughout this process and he’s made it clear that he wants to be in Raleigh and be a part of this organization.”
“It’s our job to manage our cap space as our players develop and hit free agency. There was no concern at any point that we would not be able to match this contract. Once again, the Carolina Hurricanes should not be underestimated. We have a plan and all the resources to win a Stanley Cup.”
The 21-year-old Aho had 30 goals and 83 points in 82 games with the Hurricanes last season. He added five goals and seven assists in 15 playoff games, leading his team in scoring as the Hurricanes advanced to the Eastern Conference final.